By Owen Gotimer
Ashburn (September 1, 2016) – When the reigning VHSL 5A state championship team matches up with a team coached by one of the winningest coaches in Virginia State history, you know you are in for a night of excellent volleyball. On August 30, the Stone Bridge High School volleyball team – the 2015 state champions – and Woodgrove High School volleyball team – coached by legendary head coach Carmel Keilty – provided just that. While the Lady Bulldogs swept the match (25-21, 25-14, 28-26), the Lady Wolverines put up tremendous fight in both the first and third sets.
“They definitely got us out of system,” Stone Bridge head coach Jill Raschiatore said. “Their serving was great, and they were placing the ball well on their hits. They forced us to scramble a lot.”
And scramble they did. Down four points late in the third set, the Lady Bulldogs – who were led by junior middle Caroline Burnett with 11 kills and sophomore setter Sammie Paguia with 16 assists and 7 digs – battled back to finally force a tie at 24-24 before breaking free after trading the next four points to win the set and complete the three-set sweep 28-26.
“The mindset never changes. You always have to think that you’re in it no matter what the score is,” Raschiatore said. “I think at one point we were down 22-18, and we had the same mentality: fight to win. We try not to focus on how many we’re down and just try to win every point. But it does feel better when you’re down and come back and you get those ones.”
Even though the Wolverines put up an extremely strong effort throughout the match, the Bulldogs showed why they are the reigning state champions when they rattled off point after point in a display of hitting dominance to win the second set by double digit points, 25-14.
“We were going to play until the very last point, so we were just fighting,” Stone Bridge junior setter Katey Muskett said. “We really used our outside pins to expose their smaller blocks. We just have to continue to play good defense and keep our offense clean.”
But the night was not all positives for Stone Bridge – who put too many balls into the net and too many balls out of bounds – but Raschiatore knows that the season is still young and that there is time for improvements.
“We have to work on having a bigger blocking presence at the net,” Raschiatore said. “We also have to work on our ball control in the back row, so we can utilize all of our hitters and not be so predictable.”
Finishing 25-3 last fall, Stone Bridge is working towards another impressive season sitting at 2-0 in 2016, but the Bulldogs know every team they play this season will be working extra hard to knock off the state champions.
“If you’ve had a successful season the year before, teams want to get you the next year,” Raschiatore said. “I think winning a state championship definitely puts a target on your back.”